Same old story and some birthday wishes
Dwane Casey said he didn’t want to sound like a broken record as he lauded many aspects of his team’s effort in yet another loss and who can blame him.
But he has a point and the results may not show this but the train is headed in the right direction.
The first pressing
We know that Dwane likes to show all kinds of different defensive looks, man-to-man, a couple of different zone defences and he always seems to be changing things a little bit.
Last night we saw a full court trap on a couple of occasions and, in the second quarter at least, it was pretty effective.
What it does is speed up the game a bit, kind of junk it up to disrupt the other team’s flow and the one thing the Raptors did well – and the most important – was get back quickly into their zone to make sure once the trap wasn’t successful that they didn’t give up an easy basket.
The trap, and the zone, got the game at a much quicker pace and was part of the reason Toronto got back in it after getting behind big, early.
So, what do we think …
Of Gary Forbes after three games, and limited minutes, as a point guard in progress?
I think there might be something there and I’m glad they brought him along slowly, working in practice and shootarounds until they were confident he could do the job, before throwing him out there.
He doesn’t run a lot of high screen-roll yet; they tend to use a lot of the high double-post, dribble-handoff action when he’s out there but he’s got good size, a solid court awareness and once he hones his decision-making a little bit more, he could be quite serviceable.
One play in particular stood out last night. He had a baseline drive that was being cut off but instead of forcing a bad shot, he made a great diagonal pass to Barbosa for an open jumper that showed the kind of instinct you can’t teach.
Now, I don’t know what comes of him when Bayless gets back but I do see him growing into a pretty good player at that spot.
A first …
Look, I know block-charge is the most difficult call in the game, every referee will tell you that, but surely to goodness is has to be one or the other, right?
That’s why the call late in the first half is the oddest I’ve ever seen.
The trail official out by the hash mark on the left side of the court – and I don’t remember which one it was or I’d tell you – called a block on Jose Calderon; the lead official, about seven feet from the collision, had it a charge on Jeff Teague.
Now, I’ve seen cases where two officials have differed on a similar call but they’ve always discussed and made a decision.
Not so much with this crew, they talked and ended up taking the easy way out, a foul on each guy and a jump ball.
When it comes time to write the final pieces of a writing life, when it’s really time to look back on a personal era and try chronicle it in some historical perspective, I’m sure the question of who was the most influential athlete of a life will have been.
And while I have seen some true greats, and men and women who have had an impact goes beyond the purview of their athletic abilities, one name will come quickly to mind and there will be no debate about it.
It will be Muhammad Ali and case closed.
No one in my life – and I am approaching my mid-50s in case you missed it – has come close to Ali, and I can be sure that no one will.
He stood for something and fought for it and took the lumps and punishments and criticisms and ostracisms like a man. He was true to his beliefs, never wavered and no one – no one – of this time will have the guts, or the conviction to do what he did.
He is a true global icon, he is remembered by some more for what he did outside the ring than the sheer brilliance he showed in it and his boxing skills were unparalleled at a time when boxing mattered.
I remember being a press party before the Sydney Olympics, in a tent set up at the top of the home stretch solely for the use of the world’s writers and broadcasters who wanted to go. The refreshments flowed, the food was never-ending, we had our own private touts and it was a time of high revelry.
And all of a sudden there was a stir in the crowd like nothing I’ve ever seen. Everyone rushed to this one entrance, a murmur went up among the throng.
It was Ali.
And people from all over the world, people who had been close to sporting excellence like no other people in the world, were awestruck simply to be in his presence.
For all that he did and all that he was, it was fitting; the right thing to do.
I barely caught a glimpse of him that day so large was the crowd to rush to his side but I’m glad I did.
The Champ is 70 today and I would hope the tributes will appear all over the world.
No one’s heard of him, really, but there is a story.
Seems he was with Erie of the D League for a spell last season and he might have been a bit of load to handle, personality-wise. A bit, um, over-exuberant, and something of, well, a bully is how it was put to me and some of his teammates didn’t take too kindly to the way he comported himself around the team or at practice.
One of them got so ticked he got into a physical altercation with Johnson during a practice, a totally out-of-character move for the other combatant.
And if Mr. Johnson can provoke the often-gentle Solomon Alabi to fisticuffs – and that’s the story I heard from someone who’d know – you know his “edge” is a bit too hard.
Okay, what’s the nicest little joint, maybe Italian with a good bar to sit at, within a short walk of the Long Wharf Marriott in Boston?
Thanks to the early start – and an early flight which meant I had to sit somewhere last night and get a lot of this done – got to see a fair amount of the TNT doubleheader for the first time this season.
And I have to tell you, I was entirely underwhelmed by Shaquille O’Neal. He seems to add nothing to the panel, no insight, not a lot of comedy, not a lot of personality. He’s just there, it seems.
Now, maybe I saw an off night or something but if they’re going to crowd the best pre-game, halftime panel in the business with a fourth voice, I’d rather see Chris Webber there.
It’s early but let’s start. Mail. Here. Please. Thank you. And some outside-the-box, non-game specific stuff would be grand.
I cannot believe I didn’t use this yesterday. Oops.